Project 21’s Horace Cooper joined The Daily Signal’s Genevieve Wood to discuss the historic low unemployment rate for black Americans and how the left is co-opting Martin Luther King Jr. Day to protest tax reform and promote action for illegal immigrants covered by the DACA program. Here is an edited transcript of the video.
Wood: Horace, Martin Luther King Day is coming up next week, and there has been a lot of interesting news, especially for the black community on the economic front, in this past week or so. What do you make of the numbers coming out?
Cooper: The news for black America is amazing. It’s phenomenal. We have had three separate records accomplished: In June of 2017, in September of 2017, and in January of 2018, we have set record low unemployment for black Americans. And what’s really exciting, relative to the rest of the country, is black Americans are making much more progress … and that’s, like, really big gains.
Wood: You probably just heard that overflight. We’re very close to the Pentagon right now and Reagan Airport, so you’re going to hear a lot of airplanes. Horace, we talk about historic numbers. This is the lowest black unemployment has been in over 45 years. Why all of a sudden? Is it President Obama’s economy, which is kind of what he claimed in the last few weeks?
Cooper: It was surprising to me to hear the president make these claims.
Wood: The former president.
Cooper: The former [president], Obama, make these claims. It was very surprising because from 2009 to 2015, black America’s unemployment rate turned to the worst numbers that we have seen as a community. It was the very policies that he pushed that caused this disparity.
Here’s the thing: Black American unemployment typically is somewhere between 40 percent and even 100 percent higher than white America’s unemployment. When this [black unemployment rate] number in 2018 reached 6.8 percent, that was the narrowest gap we’ve ever seen. We saw nothing like that during the Obama administration.
And it didn’t surprise me, because the policies of President Obama were more focused on handing out food stamps, and assistance, and government handouts, rather than seeing to it that the most important civil rights of all, your right to be independent, your right to be self-sufficient, [were] being honored with policies of limited government. That’s not Obama’s plan.
Wood: Now, President Trump has been in office only one year. What do you think explains the nosedive in unemployment across the board, but particularly with minority Americans?
Cooper: Any investor, any businessman, any company understands now that America is open for business and if you’d like to do business in the United States, we’re going to say, ‘That’s great.’ Remember what the last president said? ‘You didn’t build that.’ The last president said people that did things, that built things that were consequential, they were the people that we have to go after, to [put in a] stranglehold, a litany of regulations. And by the way, The Heritage Foundation did seminal studies every year, talking about how the last president set records for how many regulatory strangleholds he put on the United States.
This president, President Trump, is doing just the opposite. Two things: One is, he is not bringing new regulations into place, but [two,] he is actually rolling back the bad regulations that we saw before. So businesses are opening up and it turns out the pool of people that are most available right now, because of multiple years of bad regulatory and economic growth, are black Americans. And those people therefore are rushing into the marketplace. This is great news.
Wood: It’s great news. But as you well know, Horace, as we come up to MLK Day you are going to have a lot of folks out there talking about how the Trump administration, the tax reform package that was passed just before Christmas, is bad particularly for black Americans. We know this because they have already said they were going to do it.
[House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi and a lot of others are going to be holding events over the weekend in “honor” of Martin Luther King Jr., kind of hijacking the holiday, I would argue. To go tell black Americans why this is actually a bad economy for them, the complete opposite of all the numbers and evidence.
Cooper: Here’s the irony, what the left wants to tell black America is, ‘Who are you going to believe, them or your lying eyes?’ If you want to look at your bank account, if you want to look at the value of your home, if you want to make that the test, then you’ll look and you’ll say, ‘Wow, the news is amazing. My uncle, my cousin, even my next-door neighbor, they’re getting jobs that they didn’t have.’
A record 2 million fewer people are receiving food assistance under the Trump administration than before. But it is also not a surprise to me. Here’s the thing: When you look at Martin Luther King, most people remember the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. What they don’t recall is that the main reason for the big rally at the Lincoln Memorial [in August 1963] was a jobs program.
Black Americans were worried and concerned that there weren’t a lot of great economic opportunities. And that’s how this [March on Washington in 1963] got organized. The essence of what black America and the civil rights effort was about was letting people be able to get the kinds of things that control their own lives.
Wood: The right to a quality education, the right to good jobs.
Cooper: Absolutely. Right. A great house.
Wood: Not the right to handouts, wanting handouts.
Cooper: Absolutely. But the left, with these teach-ins as you mentioned, it’s cynical what they are doing. They don’t have a program for black America. Black America rejected—people don’t realize this—black America rejected Barack Obama’s program. How do I know this? [In 2008], the highest percentage of black Americans in history voted for the Democrat [Obama].
In 2012, we saw something happen that we have never seen before. Fewer black people voted for the re-election of a president. We haven’t seen that in 120 years. Not with Clinton, not with Nixon, not with Reagan. Every other re-elected president got more black votes than they did the first time around.
Wood: And why do you think that is? Do you think people really made the calculation within the black community, he hasn’t done what he said he was going to do?
Cooper: They absolutely could see that. You can’t show up the day before Election Day and have to wait for a handout, and then on the day after go and say I’m going to vote for this guy because he is making me great. But the Democrats and the left have been very good, and that’s what this teach-in is about.
Wood: Well, you make a point. And I want to talk more about Project 21 because I’m sure a lot of folks watching are going to say, ‘Wow, the news media doesn’t usually go out and find people like Horace Cooper to talk about Martin Luther King Day.’
They want to know where there are more Horace Coopers. And Project 21 is one of those organizations. The release that you all put out talked about, in addition to the teach-in, that while all of that is going on, the liberals are also pushing the DREAM Act and trying to legalize a lot of illegal immigrants.
Cooper: Oh, it’s a classic bait and switch, a beautiful bait and switch. When you don’t have a good program for people—by program, I mean a policy initiative that would be good for them—what you do is you find something to distract them.
What’s ironic is they’re not going to succeed in telling people, in this teach-in that they announced, that ‘You shouldn’t want the tax cuts you are about to get, you shouldn’t want more money in your bank account, you shouldn’t want more flexibility in the kinds of jobs. And that’s what’s coming your way. You don’t want that, that’s bad, we want to make you understand that the Trump regulatory tax policies are bad for you.’
Meanwhile, what they don’t say is ‘By the way, we do have a program, not for you, [but] we have a program. It is primarily focused on illegal immigrants. And in fact, even as late as today, the talk is we’ll shut the government down if we don’t get the ability to get the illegal immigration support policy changes that we want. Hey, black America, look at the teach-ins, that’s what we’ve got for you; but for our new favored class, we’ve got real policy changes that are designed to improve and make their livelihoods better.’
Wood: And in many cases, though, trying to get [illegal immigrants] into the same government programs that got [black Americans] trapped into big government.
Cooper: Well, of course, that’s the ultimate goal.
Wood: Because those folks will often times also turn into voters once they get locked into government. And they become the party of big government.
Cooper: It’s a vicious cycle.
Wood: You’re right, it’s a bait and switch. Let’s talk about Project 21. Tell everybody what Project 21 is, how they can get involved, and how they can learn more about it.
Cooper: Project 21 is an organization made up of black Americans who have rejected the idea that the only way for black Americans to succeed is if the government specifically engages in a series of handouts or preferential treatment. We are people, moderate and conservative, who say that the best way for black Americans to succeed is the same way it is for [all] Americans to succeed: Strong families, hard work. Get a good education, engage in the kind of policies where you personally save your money, you’re not extravagant. Where you make the sacrifice and you hand your children.
We believe in limited government, we believe in family values. We believe the church and the synagoge are the primary place where good values get inculcated. Our organization welcomes any American that believes in those kinds of things and wants to make sure that those are the values that we put forward. That got America started, that got America to succeed, that’s the future for America.
Wood: And that’s a lot of things that Martin Luther King Jr. absolutely stood for.
Wood: Horace, thank you. I’ve known this guy for over 20 years, he is rock-solid. It’s great being on with you. Thanks for coming on and being out here and talking with us.
Cooper: Thanks for having me on The Signal.
Wood: And thank you everybody. Check out Project 21. And thank you for watching us right here on The Daily Signal’s Facebook Live.